Florida GOP Wants to Ban Making White People Feel ‘Discomfort’ About Racism

The “Individual Freedom” bill would ban making people feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”

Jan 19 2022, 3:48pm

Facts don’t care about your feelings, but Florida Republicans do—if you’re a white person, that is. 

A new bill pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies in the Florida legislature, titled simply “Individual Freedom,” would—among other things—“prohibit classroom instruction and curricula from being used to indoctrinate or persuade students,” and target conversations about racism in the school and workplace.

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The bill was introduced by Miami-area Sen. Manny Diaz and passed the Senate Education Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday, according to the Associated Press

“An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” the bill states. “An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”

It’s the latest in a rash of reactionary legislation targeting critical race theory, a previously obscure theory about interpreting the law through the lens of racism. Criticial race theory has become one of the right’s favorite political bogeymen since the 2020 police murder of George Floyd prompted a re-evaluation of racism in American institutions.

Perhaps no governor has pushed this line more than DeSantis, who unveiled a separate bill called the “STOP W.O.K.E Act” while quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last month. So it’s not surprising that the new bill which might be the most egregious in attempting to shut down conversations about America’s history of racism comes from Florida. 

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Critics of the “Individual Freedom” bill say it’s meant to censor conversations about race and gender in schools and workplaces. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida chapter called it “a blatant attempt to suppress speech DeSantis and certain legislators do not like.”

“Students and employees deserve to have a free and open exchange about our history and its impact on our communities,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Legislators should not interfere with a student or employee’s right to receive an inclusive education just because certain aspects of our history make some people uncomfortable.”

State Sen. Tina Scott Polsky, one of the committee’s three Democratic members, told WTSP in Tampa Bay that the bill could also open up schools and employers to lawsuits.

“Now we're telling a company if they want to teach anti-discrimination, they want to teach diversity, they want to teach unconscious bias which is a course in the Florida Senate that they are potentially creating a cause of action from a disgruntled employee,” Polsky told the committee.

Diaz echoed an oft-heard line from critical race theory opponents, saying Tuesday that the bill is simply about ensuring it's taught that “no race is inherently superior to another race.” But Democratic state Sen. and Education committee vice chair Shevrin Jones, who is Black, countered by pointing out the bill is “not for Blacks” or “any other race.” 

“This was directed to make whites not feel bad about what happened years ago,”Jones said at the Senate Education Committee hearing Tuesday. “At no point did anyone say white people should be held responsible for what happened, but what I would ask my white counterparts is, are you an enabler of what happened or are you going to say, ‘We must talk about history?’”

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Tagged:

Florida, white people, Ron DeSantis, individual freedom bill

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